Category: Teen

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (InfoSoup)

NASA has called on Yuri, a 17-year-old physics prodigy from Russia, to help save the earth, literally. An asteroid is heading on a path that will directly impact earth in the next few weeks. Yuri joins the team of adults who don’t really listen to him. Yuri’s own research into antimatter has not yet been published, though he expects it to win him the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, Yuri meets Dovie, a teenage girl who has the life that Yuri never lived. Her hippie family is warm and wonderful, despite many horrible culinary experiments. Despite his focus on the asteroid, Yuri finds himself drawn to Dovie and her American teenage experiences. As Yuri works, he also discovers that the Americans intend to force him to stay, rather than allowing him to return to Russia. Now Yuri has to deal with the asteroid, escaping NASA and teenage love.

Immediately upon starting the book, I was in love with the author’s voice. She writes with a wry tone that broadens at times into full-on farce and humor. The interplay between Yuri and his counterparts at NASA is fascinatingly displayed, often using a mix of both cultural differences and Yuri’s social awkwardness to best effect. The novel is fast paced and yet not breakneck until the very end where it is entirely warranted and great fun. Yuri in an American high school and then at prom are wonderful moments that show the horrors of American schools but also Yuri as a unique character.

The book works because of Yuri himself and Dovie as well as her family. Yuri is a great character, someone who could initially be seen as Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory and then zigs in a different direction, becoming someone who is kind, friendly and horny too. Dovie and her family are the opposite of “typical” Americans, instead living a hippie lifestyle that is lovingly captured on the page. The addition of Dovie’s brother and his wheelchair is far more than a token gesture and he becomes important in Yuri’s growth and choices.

A richly funny and deeply fascinating book that asks big questions about life and death while making you laugh along the way. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando (InfoSoup)

Six kindergarteners were taken and now eleven years later, five are returned. The six teens who had disappeared have no memories of their captivity or those that took them. Now they are sixteen and seem to be remarkably OK. They have vague memories of one another, but none of them have any memory of the six child who was taken with them. Avery, the younger sister of that still-missing boy, finds it difficult to deal with the others returning but her family being forgotten. Scarlett, one of the teens taken, returns home to find a sober mother with a serious boyfriend, a vast difference from her mother before. Scarlett though feels that she is not able to figure out the person she actually is. Lucas returns home to see his father die in front of him and is accused of being involved in his death. As all of them struggle to figure out what happened to them and what their future is bringing, there are more questions than answers.

This taut thriller of a book takes a daring look at memories, families and what makes us who we are. Readers will have to set aside their incredulity at the memory loss and go along for the ride here, allowing themselves to be part of the whiplash of the riveting plot and the horror of what happened to these children. There is real depth in this novel for teens, looking beyond the bleakness of the kidnapping and into the question of childhood trauma and what makes a normal teen and adult.

The three main characters are well developed and interesting, particularly Avery, who has a unique point of view and intact memories. Her skepticism at the teens’ story of memory loss will echo that of the reader. Her continued concern for her own brother demonstrates the additional victims of the crime, the family members. Scarlett and Lucas are strong characters as well, searching for any clues they can find to unravel what happened to them. The other teens who were returned are less well drawn, with one of them almost disappearing from the novel until much later in the story.

Told through specific points of view, this novel keeps its edge right up to the end. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan (InfoSoup)

The first in a series, this teen novel is a breathtaking blend of magic, witchcraft, mythology, and Victorian England. Julia is spying on the wealthy people she is pretending to work for as a maid. She is really working with the group of thieves and con artists that she was raised by in the squalid world of the Twist. Julia is an ideal spy because she has the ability to step between worlds and disappear. This well-paying job though has her spying on people who protect those who have magic from a society that drowns witches, including Julia’s own mother who was killed years ago. As the mysteries around Julia grow,  her own life is in danger and she must decide what side she is on and who she is going to become.

The world building in this book is exemplary, truly capturing a twisted version of England filled with forbidden witchcraft, people with extraordinary powers, black market deals, and a lovely touch of steampunk as well. Add in mysteries that have people being murdered on the streets who are clearly being hunted and yet bear no connection to one another, and you have a world ripe with fear for our young magic user. As the mystery is solved, more arrive so that the richness of the world continues to grow as the novel concludes.

Throughout the novel, characters turn out to be far deeper than one might expect. Readers will identify a wolf man as a character far earlier than Julia does, but his character does not end there. Aristocrats and lowly old women alike turn out to be amazing creatures. Steampunk touches herald both heroes and villains. Among this cast of characters, there is Julia who herself is incredible, not just for her powers but for her strength, her ability to be detestable at times, and her determination not to be what one expects her to be.

This is a thrilling and impressive novel that bends genres and will delight fantasy fans. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore (InfoSoup)

At age 16, Flannery is dealing with huge issues. Her mother, an artist, is unable to pay for her biology book or heating bills. Her best friend, Amber, has a new boyfriend that Flannery does not trust because he is over-controlling and their friendship is falling apart. And now Flannery has been put into a Entrepreneurship class project with her long-term crush, a graffiti artist who seems to think he’s too cool for school. So she is left doing all of the work for their project herself. Flannery works to hold it all together, even managing to create a project that sells out: love potions. While Flannery may realize they are entirely pretend, everyone who drinks one seems to be finding love. As things start to shatter around her though, Flannery discovers who is there for her and who is not.

OK, everything I read about this book seems to focus on the love potion aspect. This book does have that, but oh my it is so much more. The writing here is strikingly unique. Moore does away with quotation marks, creating dialogue poetry on the page, the voices running together exquisitely and somehow becoming even more clear without the punctuation. That is great writing. She plays with the mysticism of love, the power of control, and the illusion of it as well.

Beyond the love potions, this is a book about a teenager finding her own strength, her own voice and her own way of living which is not about conforming at all. Flannery knows throughout the book that she is unique and in love and that everything is not what it should be. Still, there are revelations even as she lives her truth, ones that change her point of view and make her grow. That is done so naturally and organically. Beautiful.

A stunning teen read, pick this one up not for the love potions but for the deep story and strong unique heroine that you will want to meet. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (InfoSoup)

Maya was born with a terrible horoscope, one that dooms her to marry death, so no man will marry her. So Maya has been focused on her education, since she knows she will never marry. She is detested in the kingdom’s harem and spends much of her time up in the rafters where she can listen in on her father’s throne room. That is how she hears that he plans to have her married off to save the kingdom, despite her horoscope. As Maya becomes a political pawn, her father asks her for the ultimate sacrifice to give her life for peace in her kingdom. Just as Maya is about to sacrifice herself however, war arrives at the kingdom and she is dazzled by a young man she has never met before. Soon her life becomes filled with options she has never considered and magic she never knew was more than tales.

Chokshi makes this book so much more than what it sounds like above. She first creates a world filled with restrictions for women, who are seen only as sexual beings or as collateral to be used for leverage. It is a world where women fight behind the scenes for power, where spite and anger lurk constantly. It is a world of immense wealth and plenty and yet no freedom. Then, and this is what makes this book exceptional, Chokshi turns it all on its head. Readers and the main character move away from those strictures of society and are plopped into a world with its own rules. It is a world of pure power, immense magic and yet rules too.

Against those two diverse worlds, Maya is shown to be a teenager of real distinction. She manages to gain an education where it should not have been a priority. She makes a dire choice and then discovers lust and potentially love. But her path is not straight at all, it moves from princess to queen to something else entirely, something dark and thrilling. It is in that third life where she discovers real power and real love.

This daring and lush novel is filled with excellent world building and one strong teen protagonist who has to save the world. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

 

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (InfoSoup)

Adrian works hard to stay invisible in the high school hallways, because otherwise he seems to always get the attention of the school bullies. Adrian uses a lot of his free time drawing his superhero, Graphite and posting new stories and art anonymously to his website. He also has his two best friends who offer him some safety at school, since he is an art geek, sci-fi fan and gay. When Adrian manages to give himself a shocking haircut, he stops being invisible. Then a hate crime happens right in front of him and Adrian has to step forward and speak the truth about what really happened even if the police and others don’t believe him. It’s what any superhero would do.

This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, science fiction and LGBT reality. It looks at high school right now, showing that even if people know better there are still gay teens being beaten up just for being themselves. It asks the question of whether being closeted is safer or not, whether putting yourself out there is worth the risk, and whether it is ever suitable to try to be invisible. It also shows readers what a real hero looks like. The type that can’t fly or live in space, but one that walks high school halls and steps up for others.

Linn combines his writing and drawing skills in this book, giving Graphite his own look and feel. I appreciate that the art is well done, but also something that could be done by a talented high school student. It displays a sensitivity that is right in line with Adrian’s perspective as well as a certain theatrical nature too.

An amazing and unique teen novel, this book offers several heroes in and out of costume. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.